Afro-Latino Army medic in uniform Caron Nazario was pepper sprayed and had guns drawn on him by two Virginia police officers during a routine traffic stop last December.
Police body camera footage shows Windsor officers Joe Gutierrez and Daniel Crocker pulling over U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Nazario for not having a rear license plate on his newly purchased Chevrolet Tahoe. Nazario had temporary plates on the rear window of his SUV.
During the altercation, Nazario told officers he was afraid to get out of his vehicle after they escalated the situation by stepping up to his vehicle with guns drawn. One of the officers replied, “Yeah, you should be.” That officer, Gutierrez, who was also the one that pepper sprayed Nazario, has since been fired from the department.
Nazario is now suing Gutierrez and Crocker for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The lawsuit, which was filed April 2, states that the officers’ body cam footage and the footage shot from Nazario’s cell phone captured “behavior consistent with a disgusting nationwide trend of law enforcement officers, who, believing they can operate with complete impunity, engage in unprofessional, discourteous, racially biased, dangerous, and sometimes deadly abuses of authority…ignore the clearly established mandates of the Constitution.”
On Sunday (April 11), Virginia Governor Ralph Northam called the incident “disturbing” and said he was directing the Virginia State Police to conduct an independent investigation.
Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro didn’t mince words. He called what happened to Nazario straight-up racism.
Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. and the CEO of MLK Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, was also clear with her words. She was simply thankful that Nazario lived through the traumatic experience.